OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 30, 2011) - The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced that Parks Canada will be working with other Canadian researchers to deploy highly sophisticated underwater technology in the continuing search for polar explorer Sir John Franklin's lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. This summer's two-phased Arctic expedition will focus on further uncovering the story of the 19th century pursuit to find the Northwest Passage and will also include underwater exploration of the HMS Investigator shipwreck located last summer off Banks Island, as well as archaeological studies of related land sites.
"The Government of Canada is proud to be working with a nationwide team of existing and new Canadian researchers in this search for two of the world's most elusive shipwrecks", said Minister Kent. "Our collective efforts will significantly enhance this year's search capacity through the use of new technology."
The search for Sir John Franklin's lost ships under the direction of Parks Canada will enlist a sophisticated autonomous underwater vehicle to expand the search area, supplied by University of Victoria's Ocean Technology Laboratory.
Beginning about August 21, depending upon local weather conditions, Parks Canada and the associated organizations will continue the search for Franklin's lost vessels in the region west of King William Island in Nunavut. The expedition is a collaborative effort among Parks Canada, University of Victoria Ocean Technology Laboratory, Government of Nunavut and Canadian Ice Service. As in 2008 and 2010, Parks Canada archaeologists will be operating from the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier alongside hydrographers with the Canadian Hydrographic Service.
"The challenging search for a Northwest Passage has captured the public imagination for more than 400 years. As an integral part of our Canadian history and development as a nation, the Government of Canada is pleased to spearhead these important archaeological expeditions in Canada's Arctic," concluded Minister Kent.
HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were lost during Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 1845 expedition to chart Canada's Northwest Passage and the vessels have been sought for more than 160 years, creating great anticipation for their possible discovery.
From about July 10 to 25, Parks Canada archaeologists will further study the HMS Investigator wreck from a camp in Aulavik National Park, Northwest Territories near the western end of the Northwest Passage. The camp is near the location where Captain McClure and his ship HMS Investigator were trapped in the ice of Mercy Bay while searching for the lost Franklin voyage.
While HMS Investigator was discovered last summer, underwater archaeologists plan to dive the wreck for the first time this summer using a variety of underwater cameras, with the purpose of bringing back new information and unique underwater images. Archaeologists will also investigate McClure's cache and related terrestrial sites, including a rare, ancient Paleoeskimo site.
For additional information on the two-phased Arctic expedition and the 2011 itineraries, please see the accompanying backgrounders at www.parkscanada.gc.ca under Media Room. As well, please visit the special feature on the Arctic expeditions at www.parkscanada.gc.ca for regular updates over the summer.